Why 11 states and counting are easing school quarantine rules

In Ohio and New Hampshire, students exposed in classrooms following safety precautions no longer have to quarantnine
By: | May 3, 2021

A dozen Colorado superintendents, from districts large and small, have asked their state to end mandatory school COVID quarantines.

It’s a request that reflects the desire in a growing number of states and districts to reduce the number of students forced to miss in-person instruction due to potential COVID exposure.

In Colorado, elected and health officials have acknowledge the school safety measures are largely preventing the spread of COVID in classrooms, the superintendents wrote in their letter.

“The frequent school quarantines have caused constant disruption to classroom environments, stress for students preparing for end-of-year exams, and a lack of predictability and consistency in almost every facet of a student’s school experience,” the superintendents wrote.

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In those districts, less than one-half of 1% of students and staff placed into quarantine since January tested positive for the virus, they wrote.

They cited a relaxation of quarantine requirements rules in several other states. Under Ohio’s updated regulations unvaccinated students and adults exposed to COVID at school can continue to attend in-person under several conditions:

  • The school has documented COVID-19 prevention policies, including universal mask-wearing, strategies to maximize distance between students, hand-washing, identification and management of students exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection protocols.
  • The exposure occurred within a classroom environment or while on required school transport.
  • The person with COVID-19 and any associated contacts were wearing face masks that covered their nose and mouth at all times.
  • Distancing between students is maximized in classroom and other settings, ideally six feet but three feet is acceptable.
  • Those exposed remain symptom-free.

Ohio, however, still prohibits unvaccinated students from attending in-person school or extracurriculars if they were exposed outside the classroom.

New Hampshire’s new rules no longer recommend quarantine for students or staff who are exposed in a classroom where masks are being worn properly and three feet of social distancing is maintained.

Many districts are also reducing the number of days students have to quarantine or allowing them to return to schools earlier if they get a negative COVID test.

In their letter, the Colorado superintendents noted that Utah, Missouri, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Iowa, Wyoming, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Indiana had also loosened school quarantine rules.

They also referred to one student who had been sent home for quarantine six times.

“We have many students across our districts who have been out on quarantine two to three times this year and have had a choppy, inconsistent school experience,” they wrote. “The protective health benefits for these students from quarantines have been small — and the costs to their development and academic progress have been great.”